Film: “Helvetica”

“A movie about a font? Okay.”

I knew that Mack had wanted to see Helvetica for quite some time, but the above is what I was thinking when he asked if I had wanted to come. But after reading the description of the film, I found out that it had more to it than that. From the website:

Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives.”

Friday night’s showing at Metro Cinema included a pre-screening party hosted by the Alberta North Chapter of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, which meant the majority of those attending were in some way connected to the profession itself. While we didn’t feel out of place, when the audience laughed in unison or recognized a familiar face in the movie, we of course didn’t.

The movie in itself was interesting, really exposing to me the pervasiveness of Helvetica everywhere (I was waiting with bated breath for Crate & Barrel’s logo to show up on screen). By the end of it, every metaphor you could think of to possibly describe how design permeates our lives (e.g. it is the air we breathe) was used. Helvetica as a whole, however, was perhaps too focused on the industry perspective. Mack for one wanted more feedback from those not intimately connected with design. That said, the filmmaker’s strength was choosing to put very passionate people in front of the camera, including the very amusing Erik Spiekermann and Massimo Vignelli, who were both unintentionally funny.

As documentaries go, Helvetica isn’t bad. It will just have more meaning for you if you have an interest or work in design.

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